Inside HONOLULU: Dear Writers I Interviewed For This Article …

Don’t hate me. Oh, go ahead. Hate me.
Don Wallace

Everybody writes these days—texts, mostly, but also tweets and posts, and, if you’re the kind who can’t stand being edited, tattoos. So this note is an apology to the many who are not in our story, “The Writer’s Life in Hawai‘i.”


How do you try to cover the writing world in these most diverse islands? To be fair and thorough and not leave anybody out might require, well, 1,420,000 interviews, right?


For the record: I did about 26 or so interviews. I also drew on a bank of conversations with writers going back the four-and-a-half years I’ve been at HONOLULU—by far the biggest perk of the job, in my opinion (and yes, I’m including all the “professional food testing” we do in-office).


I’m also lucky in that, after marrying a local writer in 1976, I was hanai’d into a group of writers who were coalescing into one of the greatest galaxies of local authors the Islands have ever seen—the Talk Story Conference generation. That’s not just my opinion. It’s shown in the number of them selected by our anonymous panel for our 2018 story “50 Essential Hawai‘i Books.”


SEE ALSO: The Hawai‘i Writers Almanac 2019

Constance Hale
Constance Hale at Camp Mokulē‘ia.
photo: courtesy of constance hale


Among findings I couldn’t squeeze in: An awful lot of writers said they got their start in fourth grade. (I’m one of them.) Author of three books and three children, Punahou teacher M. Thomas Gammarino recently was reminded by his mother about a promise he made: “I would like to attend the University of Hawai‘i. Someday I would like a career in art … I want to get married, have kids and live in Hawai‘i.” (He was living in Manoa, Pennsylvania, at the time, and in sixth grade, which explains the slow start to his career.)


Favorite quote, hands-down, came from Constance Hale: “Writers have always been spongers, scammers or trust funders.” Oh, snap!


Now, about that Talk Story Conference, which I attended in 1978: It was marked by a challenge from kupuna O.A. Bushnell to everyone in the auditorium to vow to produce more authentic writing by people of Hawai‘i for people of Hawai‘i—and the outside world. That’s a commitment I think this magazine has honored in devoting space every year to the book, the one cultural artifact that has stood the test of the past 20 years of internet and web disruption.


So go ahead and hate me, but read the story and when you’re done, buy a book by a local writer. Who knows? Maybe the next time we’ll be talking to you about yours.   


Read more stories by Don Wallace


This is a behind-the-scenes story from the August feature, “The Hawai‘i Writer’s Life.” Read more about the locals we talked to about how to make it as a writer in Hawai‘i in the August 2019 issue of HONOLULU. It is available on newsstands now or for purchase at Subscribe to the print and digital editions now.